In previous posts, I’ve talked about The Regis Company’s focus on “how to think” simulation training, versus traditional “what to think” corporate development training. I’ve also discussed Richness and Reach broken into four quadrants. In this post, I’ll dive into how this logic began to gain relevance for me, but first, a quick refresher:

While Quadrants III and IV offer more effective how-to-think experiential learning activities, most of today’s training and professional development falls into Quadrants I and II. The impact of these programs is often measured by collecting “smile sheets” or “seat time.” The number of people touched is a primary measure of success for this type of learning—there is plenty of content, but actual behavioral impact is minimal.

I learned the inefficiency of these types of solutions the hard way in 2000. I was the vice president of a learning and development training company that was flush with cash, had seasoned leaders, created a well-defined strategy, and employed talented people with energy and ideas. If a problem arose, we solved it quickly. If plans needed to be made, we sat in lengthy meetings and captured Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound (SMART) objectives.

We readily made decisions—a lot of them. But we eventually discovered that we were highly ineffective. The problems we solved often arose again with greater fortitude. We thought we had clear communication processes, but we certainly did not understand how to collaborate to satisfy our SMART objectives. Most of the decisions we made were either self-serving or detrimental to another part of our business; we were not thinking systemically.

The icing on the cake was that we were teaching decision-making, problem-solving, and other leadership skills to our clients in our award-winning e learning modules and workshops. These solutions, however, were all in Quadrants I and II. We did not equip our employees or our clients to adapt to new situations, to develop a systemic view, or to collaborate across divisions to solve the organizations’ most pressing needs. We simply taught them to work within known situations.

The business shut down within a few years—it was a humbling and eye-opening experience. Despite the fact that our approaches to learning had caught the eye of some learning gurus because the solutions used the latest technology, we were still teaching people what to think. This experience shaped me personally, and it gave me great insight into why most corporate development training does little more than prepare employees to function within known situations.

Michael Vaughan is the CEO of The Regis Company, a global provider of business simulations and experiential learning programs. Michael is the author of the books The Thinking Effect: Rethinking Thinking to Create Great Leaders and the New Value Worker and The End of Training: How Business Simulations Are Reshaping Business.

Mike Vaughan

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